This is only tangentially related to beer, so caveat lector — let the reader beware — and concerns some shenanigans by another breast cancer charity again. You may recall last year, a San Francisco-based one, Breast Cancer Action, threw beer under the bus and told the alcohol community they should be ashamed of themselves for raising money for the worthy cause of breast cancer awareness. In my write-up at the time, Biting the Hand That Feeds You, I remarked about a disturbing trend I’d been noting with large charitable organizations.
I’m really starting to believe that there’s now a “charitable industrial complex,” that these behemoth charities have become big business in their own right. And from what some of you have written, and from what I’ve seen, it appears that, like many big corporations, much of the profits go to the people who run them and only a little goes to shareholders, or in this case to the actual charitable cause itself. They seem to have become more about the money than the well-intentioned passion to do something about an issue that led to their formation.
More proof of my growing uneasiness with behemoth charities came to light recently, this time from Susan G. Komen For the Cure. They’ve started sending out cease and desist letters to over a hundred (possibly hundreds of) smaller charities threatening them with lawsuits if they don’t stop using their trademarked “for the cure” phrase in such organizations as “Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure.”
Stephen Colbert Show on January 3 mentioned this in his “Tip of the Hat/Wag of My Finger” segment:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Tip/Wag – Susan G. Komen Foundation & Spider-Man Musical<a>|
Well, the Huffington Post report referenced in the Colbert segment was also sent to me today by Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, whose own campaign, All Hopped Up For the Cure, seems destined to get one of these threatening letters, too. After reading Susan G. Komen Foundation Elbows Out Charities Over Use Of The Word ‘Cure’, I think it’s even worse than Colbert’s piece suggested, and that was pretty bad.
The majority of the charities being threatened by Susan G. Komen appear to be small “Mom & Pop” charities with few resources to fight a lawsuit with the big law firms retained by Komen. They’ve apparently been spending a million dollars a year, money they received from donors which ironically did not go toward finding a “cure,” on legal fees alone.
They told one charity that “they own ‘cure’ in a name and we had to stop using it, even though we were raising money for an entirely different cause.” They told another to “never use the color pink in conjunction with their fundraising.” This is what I meant before. This is just bullying, plain and simple. I understand that companies have an affirmative duty to protect what they believe to be their trademarks or brands, but there are ways to do things, and ways not to do things. It’s seems to me that being a bully while at the same time claiming to be a charity could easily be a PR disaster.
What this ends up being about is protecting their own revenue stream, which if they were a “for profit” business would make perfect sense. But when protecting your own revenue stream also means taking money away from other charities, it’s not as black and white any longer, at least not to me. The charitable communities should, I think, be working together toward a common goal, even if they go about it in different ways. Curing cancer should be the only goal that matters, but Komen’s actions seem to show that it’s become more about “who” finds the cure or can muster the most money and resources to shut down their “competition” from using the same effective fund-raising tactics. It’s hard for me to support any charity whose goal seems to be more about the money and power than actually finding a cure.
I don’t care how “legal” their actions are or what side of the law their actions fall on, it still comes across badly. There’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. These now behemoth charities used to be about passionately trying to do good work in the world, whether fighting a disease or helping people in need, or what have you. But increasingly they seem no different than any other big business, using their large resources, political clout, etc. to throw their weight around with little regard for their original mission or purpose. As one of the women whose charity’s been targeted, Sue Prom ends the HuffPo article with the following.
“I used to give money to Komen all the time, but now I’m just kind of wary of them,” [Sue Prom] said. “I’m not buying Yoplait yogurt or anything that has the word ‘Komen’ on it. They seem to have forgotten what charity is about.”